In addition to yet another horrific tragedy in Texas, the month of May also brought two personal losses in my family. Each one unique, but significant in their impact. As with any substantial loss, there is a wave of emotions. The experiences of grief are well documented and researched. There are different philosophies on how many stages there are and the process in which people cycle through and eventually come to a place of acceptance. My experience this month took me through several of those expressions, primarily denial/disbelief, bargaining, and anger. I camped out with the last two for an extended period of time (and still find myself there in various moments. Probably prompted by the ongoing mass shootings occurring in our country.)
If you follow my blogs regularly, you know I am a reflective person. I try to pay attention to ways the universe is working to help me evolve into a better version of myself. This past month, I’ve noticed the reoccurring theme of “acceptance”. It makes me think of the Serenity Prayer, “Grant me the serenity to accept the things I can not change”. UGH! That’s so hard! It is our human nature to want to ensure our safety, well-being, security, and happiness. Not unlike others, I really like to be able to control things that I want changed. I don’t want innocent lives to be taken via gun violence (or any violence). I don’t want to lose a friend unexpectedly (or even expectedly for that matter). I don’t want to feel responsible for hurting any living being. I don’t want to have unmet expectations. I don’t want to be judged. I don’t want things to be harder than they need to be. Yet all of those things happened in May, and I couldn’t control them. It’s been emotionally taxing as I wrestle with each event and fight to get to a place of acceptance. I know things happen that we don’t want to happen. They can be painful things, and perhaps it’s pain we caused or pain we incurred. As a friend’s father would say “That’s life.” However, it’s hard to not be able to just wish it away but to have to sit in it. Face it, own it and accept it.
This past school year has been touted as “the most difficult one yet”. Educators I interact with frequently say how challenging it was and feel completely exhausted. Again, it’s hard to feel like things are happening to you and around you and you have no control. Staffing shortages, learning loss catch-up expectations, sporadic ongoing quarantining episodes along with increased student behavior concerns. It is draining! Yet so many educators inspired me with their resilience and their ability to surrender to what is, accept it, adjust, and proceed.
As May came to a close, I was afforded an opportunity to spend two days with cherished colleagues visiting schools who are “doing it right”. The staff established an environment that elevates positive school culture and climate and are reaping the fruit of their labor, including a decrease in behavior referrals and an increase in student engagement and achievement. Among numerous strategies they’ve implemented, I was thrilled to see the ways each administrator prioritized the well-being of their staff. I’m convinced that contributes to the success they are enjoying in those buildings. It helps to soften the blow when the hits keep coming, especially these last couple of years. To be enveloped in an atmosphere of intentional support, love, and admiration can only bring about positive outcomes.
As difficult as this month as been for me personally, it helped having the support of friends and family. Being able to share honestly and vulnerably with those whom I trust brought solace and reassurance. I also cherished quiet time alone to process, cry, fuss, be angry, journal, pray/meditate, walk, and feel all my feelings. I’ve realized that I will cycle through the feelings as I process them, they come and go. As my mom says, “Feelings can come in waves. Let them wash over you.” So, I allow myself to have moments of peace and then times of discord and angst without judgment knowing it’s all part of getting to acceptance or serenity. As with any difficult time, we can come out of those experiences stronger, more resilient, learning, and growing if we pay attention and permit that development to occur. I’m confident these experiences happened for a reason, to help me to continue in my self-exploration and evolution. That is my hope for any of you reading this, if there are things happening that make you feel helpless, hopeless, and/or out of control, join me in the commitment to sit with it, wrestle with it, but fight to get to acceptance. We will find serenity there.